Title:
LOCKBOX WITH USER CONFIGURED COMBINATION LOCKS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A lockbox with user-configured combination includes a body that has a top surface, side surfaces, an attachment bail and an interior cavity that extends inwardly from an opening in a side surface. The attachment bail extends from the top and slides from an open to a closed position. A first combination lock is located on the top surface and secures the bail in the closed position. A first key lock is located within the interior cavity and controls a combination for the first combination lock. A door is removably secured to the opening. A second combination lock is fitted to the door, controls access to the interior cavity through the opening, and has at least two tumbler rings. The tumbler rings have a plurality of user-selectable positions, each identified with at least one character. A second key lock in the interior cavity controls a combination for the second combination lock.



Inventors:
Ng, Kwan Yuen (City of Industry, CA, US)
Ng, Sarah Seen (City of Industry, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/873218
Publication Date:
04/16/2009
Filing Date:
10/16/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D55/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FULTON, KRISTINA ROSE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP (LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ, US)
Claims:
1. A lockbox with user-configured combination locks, comprising: a body, said body having a top surface, side surfaces, an attachment bail and an interior cavity, said interior cavity extending inwardly from an opening in one of said side surfaces; said attachment bail extending upwardly from said top surface of said body and being slidable from a first, open position to a second, closed position; a first combination lock, said first combination lock being disposed upon said top surface and securing said bail in said second, closed position; a first key lock, said first key lock being disposed within said interior cavity and controlling selection of a combination for said first combination lock; a door, said door being sized and shaped to be removably secured to said opening; a second combination lock, said second combination lock being fitted to said door, controlling access to said interior cavity through said opening, and having at least two tumbler rings, said tumbler rings having a plurality of user-selectable positions, each of said positions identified with at least one character; a second key lock, said second key lock being disposed within said interior cavity and controlling selection of a combination for said second combination lock; and whereby, when said attachment bail is locked through a building fixture with said first combination lock, said combination of said second combination lock is set and secured with said second key lock, a building key is inserted in said interior cavity and said door secured to said opening with said second combination lock, access to a building is permitted to only those who have been given said combination and changes to said combination and removal of said lockbox are prevented.

2. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, wherein each of said tumbler rings has thirteen user-selectable positions.

3. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 2, wherein at least one of said tumbler rings has said user-selectable positions identified with alpha characters.

4. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 2, wherein at least one of said tumbler rings has user-selectable positions identified with numeric characters.

5. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 2, wherein at least one of said tumbler rings has user-selectable positions identified with two alpha characters affixed together.

6. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, wherein said second combination lock has three tumbler rings.

7. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, wherein said second combination lock has four tumbler rings.

8. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, wherein said first combination lock has three tumbler rings.

9. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, wherein said first combination lock has four tumbler rings.

10. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1 further comprising a resilient covering for said body, said covering being disposed over said side surfaces of said body to prevent damage to buildings.

11. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, further comprising a resilient sleeve for said attachment bail, said sleeve preventing damage to building fixtures.

12. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, wherein said first key lock and said second key lock are identically keyed.

13. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, further comprising a chain, said chain attaching said door to said body.

14. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, further comprising: a protruding ledge, said protruding ledge extending outwardly from an edge of said door and being sized and shaped to fit pivotally into an edge of said opening; a sliding latch, said sliding latch being sized, shaped and disposed to removably engage an edge of said opening, and being slidable from a first, disengaged position to a second engaged position for securing said door to said opening; said latch being releasably locked in said engaged position by said second combination lock.

15. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 14, wherein said sliding latch comprises a non-slip surface.

16. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 14, wherein said sliding latch comprises a protrusion extending outwardly from said door.

17. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, wherein said second key lock is disposed at an interior portion of said door.

18. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, wherein: said door further comprises: a lower edge having a substantially cylindrical cross-section; first and second hinge pins, said hinge pins extending orthogonally from said lower edge; and said opening further comprises: first and second receiving notches, said receiving notches being sized, shaped and disposed to removably accept said first and second hinge pins; whereby, when said door is opened with said second combination lock, the door is tilted and removed from the lockbox.

19. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 18, wherein said receiving notches are configured to support said door in a substantially horizontal position when open.

20. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 18, further comprising a spring-loaded pin, said pin being disposed adjacent said opening in one of said side surfaces and beneath either of a top edge and a side edge of said door, said pin urging said door to open.

21. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, further comprising a barrier plate, said barrier plate separating said interior cavity into a first compartment for storing a key and a second compartment isolating a portion of said attachment bail that enters said interior cavity.

22. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 21, wherein said second compartment completely encloses said portion of said attachment bail that enters said interior cavity.

23. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 1, further comprising a weatherproof cover, said cover having a hinged doorway with fastening latch, said doorway providing access to said door.

24. The lockbox with user-configured combination locks, as described in claim 23, wherein said weatherproof cover further comprises first and second seals, said seals fitting closely about first and second portions of said attachment bail where said portions enter said body.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

The invention is a lockbox for use in real estate sales and related transactions. More particularly, the invention relates to lockboxes designed to permit selection of lockbox combinations in the form of words or recognizable alpha codes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Lockboxes are commonly used in the real estate sales industry to provide means for a large number of salesmen to gain access to a locked building. The lockbox is secured to the building and contains a key fitting a lock controlling access to the building. The lockbox key repository is typically secured with a combination lock. The combination for this lock is usually distributed to the real estate community so as to provide limited access to the building. In most lockboxes, once the correct combination has been entered and the repository opened, the lockbox may be removed from the attachment to the building. Further, with the repository open, the combination may also be changed. This sometimes leads to problems. A dishonest agent could open the repository and then change the combination so that only he has access, shutting out other agents. Further, an agent could open the repository and then remove the lockbox altogether, again shutting out other agents.

A further problem relates to the combinations selected for lockbox use. Most of the combination locks in use rely upon numeric combinations, some of which are user selectable. For most people, however, numeric combination are difficult to remember. Even when the numeric combination is user-selectable, there are usually few numeric combinations that are easy to remember. The present invention addresses this problem by providing means to use alpha and/or numeric characters for the lock combinations.

A number of lockbox designs have been developed. U.S. Pat. No. 5,815,557 issued to Larson discloses a secure entry system that makes use of radio transmissions to communicate with locks, keys, and related components throughout the system. The radio transmissions can be made using a paging system, a cellular telephone system, or any other RF carrier. Some embodiments employ a cellular telephone in lieu of an electronic key. Others integrate a paging receiver within an electronic key to provide a unit with dual functionality. The system is illustrated with reference to exemplary applications in the industrial site security, real estate lockbox, and transportation fields. A homeowner key allows the homeowner greater oversight and involvement. The key includes a privacy feature, enabling the homeowner to disable the lockbox for a predetermined period if privacy is desired.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,705,991 issued to Kniffin, et al. describes a secure entry system that makes use of radio transmissions to communicate with locks, keys, and related components throughout the system. The radio transmissions can be made using a paging system, a cellular telephone system, or any other RF carrier. Some embodiments employ a cellular telephone in lieu of an electronic key. Others integrate a paging receiver within an electronic key to provide a unit with dual functionality. The system is illustrated with reference to exemplary applications in the industrial site security, real estate lockbox, and transportation fields.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,245,652 issued to Larson, et al. discloses a comprehensive real estate lockbox system which provides a variety of operational features. One of these includes a reader key that can retrieve access data from a system lockbox. The reader key is provided with an audible tone generator which can be selectively enabled by the user. The tone generator can be used to download data from the reader key over telephone lines.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,084,945 issued to Childers describes a detent clip adapted to fit around the edge of a door and positioned so that the clip prevents the swinging movement of a real estate lockbox attached to the handle of the door. The clip comprises a substantially U-shaped member, one leg of which has a projecting portion to bear against the lockbox thereby deterring its swinging movement when the door is opened or closed.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,046,084 issued to Barrett, et al. describes an electronic real estate lockbox system that includes a facsimile reporting capability. More particularly, numeric data detailing the location of a lockbox, dates and times of accesses to the lockbox, and the identities of the keyholders who accessed the lockbox, is transferred from the lockbox to a central computer. The central computer interprets this numeric data to provide human-readable names, addresses, etc. After translation, the central computer formats the data for facsimile transmission to the local real estate offices that require the information to track usage of the lockbox.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,766,746 issued to Henderson, et al. discloses a comprehensive real estate lockbox system which provides a variety of operational features. Some of these features include the ability to: record all accesses to all lockboxes; transfer all or part of such records from the lockboxes to a supervising real estate agency or board; organize and review such records; facilitate operation of lockboxes that are mounted in awkward or poorly lit locations; limit lockbox accesses to preselected agents, agencies or boards; reprogram lockboxes in the field; monitor redundantly the status of the lockbox battery; record diagnostic information on each operation of a lockbox or key; render keys inoperative on predetermined dates; disable unauthorized keys; grant agents from remote real estate boards permission to open certain lockboxes, and; grant different keys different privileges.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,727,368 issued to Larson, et al. describes real estate lockbox and key designs which provide a variety of operational features. Also disclosed is a comprehensive system that allows real estate boards and agencies to efficiently manage their lockbox operations. Features provided by the system include the ability to record all accesses to all lockboxes; transfer all or part of such records from the lockboxes to the real estate agency or board; organize and review such records at the agency or board offices; disable operation of various lockboxes during certain hours of the day; facilitate operation of lockboxes that are mounted in awkward or poorly lit locations; limit lockbox accesses to pre-selected agents, agencies or boards; and record diagnostic information with each operation of a lockbox or key.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,813,912 issued to Ng, et al. describes a secure lockbox that includes an interior key lock controlling access to the mechanism for setting and changing the combination for the lock controlling access to the interior storage compartment of the lockbox. A second key lock controls the attachment bail of the lockbox, preventing unauthorized removal of the lockbox. The two key locks may be identically keyed. In a variant of the invention, a second combination lock controls the attachment bail instead of a key lock. Resilient coverings are provided for the attachment bail and the sides of the lockbox body to prevent damage to buildings and fixtures. A chain is provided to secure the door of the lockbox to the body. A slide latch having non-slip features is controlled by the door's combination lock and engages an edge of the door opening to secure the door opening.

It is an objective of the present invention to provide a lockbox for use in the real estate sales industry that allows for use of alpha and/or numeric characters in a user-selectable combination. It is another objective to provide a lockbox that is secure from unauthorized removal. It is a further objective to provide a lockbox that has a user-selectable combination controlling the attachment bail. It is a still further objective of the invention to means to control access to the setting of the combination for the lockbox. It is a final objective to provide a lockbox that may be easily used, is rugged and reliable and that may be inexpensively manufactured and maintained.

While some of the objectives of the present invention are disclosed in the prior art, none of the inventions found include all of the requirements identified.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention addresses all of the deficiencies of prior art user-configured lockbox inventions and satisfies all of the objectives described above.

(1) A lockbox with user-configured combination locks may be constructed from the following components. A body is provided. The body has a top surface, side surfaces, an attachment bail and an interior cavity. The interior cavity extends inwardly from an opening in one of the side surfaces. The attachment bail extends upwardly from the top surface of the body and is slidable from a first, open position to a second, closed position. A first combination lock is provided. The first combination lock is located on the top surface and secures the bail in the second, closed position. A first key lock is provided. The first key lock is located within the interior cavity and controls selection of a combination for the first combination lock. A door is provided. The door is sized and shaped to be removably secured to the opening. A second combination lock is provided. The second combination lock is fitted to the door, controls access to the interior cavity through the opening, and has at least two tumbler rings. The tumbler rings have a plurality of user-selectable positions. Each of the positions is identified with at least one character. A second key lock is provided. The second key lock is located within the interior cavity and controls selection of a combination for the second combination lock.

When the attachment bail is locked through a building fixture with the first combination lock, the combination of the second combination lock is set and secured with the second key lock, a building key is inserted in the interior cavity and the door secured to the opening with the second combination lock, access to a building is permitted to only those who have been given the combination. Changes to the combination and removal of the lockbox are prevented.

(2) In a variant of the invention, each of the tumbler rings has thirteen user-selectable positions.

(3) In another variant, at least one of the tumbler rings has the user-selectable positions identified with alpha characters.

(4) In still another variant, at least one of the tumbler rings has user-selectable positions identified with numeric characters.

(5) In yet another variant, at least one of the tumbler rings has user-selectable positions identified with two alpha characters affixed together.

(6) In a further variant, the second combination lock has three tumbler rings.

(7) In still a further variant, the second combination lock has four tumbler rings.

(8) In yet a further variant, the first combination lock has three tumbler rings.

(9) In another variant of the invention, the first combination lock has four tumbler rings.

(10) In still another variant, the lockbox includes a resilient covering for the body. The covering is located over the side surfaces of the body to prevent damage to buildings.

(11) In yet another variant, the lockbox includes a resilient sleeve for the attachment bail. The sleeve prevents damage to building fixtures.

(12) In a further variant, the first key lock and the second key lock are identically keyed.

(13) In still a further variant, the lockbox includes a chain. The chain attaches the door to the body.

(14) In yet a further variant, a protruding ledge is provided. The protruding ledge extends outwardly from an edge of the door and is sized and shaped to fit pivotally into an edge of the opening. A sliding latch is provided. The sliding latch is sized, shaped and located to removably engage an edge of the opening. The latch is slidable from a first, disengaged position to a second engaged position for securing the door to the opening. The latch is releasably locked in the engaged position by the second combination lock.

(15) In still a further variant, the sliding latch includes a non-slip surface.

(16) In another variant of the invention, the sliding latch includes a protrusion extending outwardly from the door.

(17) In still another variant, the second key lock is located at an interior portion of the door.

(18) In yet another variant, the door includes a lower edge that has a substantially cylindrical cross-section. First and second hinge pins are provided. The hinge pins extend at right angles from the lower edge. The opening includes first and second receiving notches. The receiving notches are sized, shaped and located to removably accept the first and second hinge pins. When the door is opened with the second combination lock, the door is tilted and removed from the lockbox.

(19) In a further variant, the receiving notches are configured to support the door in a substantially horizontal position when open.

(20) In still a further variant, a spring-loaded pin is provided. The pin is located adjacent the opening in one of the side surfaces and beneath either a top edge or a side edge of the door. The pin urges the door to open.

(21) In yet a further variant, a barrier plate is provided. The barrier plate separates the interior cavity into a first compartment for storing a key and a second compartment isolating a portion of the attachment bail that enters the interior cavity.

(22) In another variant of the invention, the second compartment completely encloses the portion of the attachment bail that enters the interior cavity.

(23) In still another variant, a weatherproof cover is provided. The cover has a hinged doorway with fastening latch. The doorway provides access to the door.

(24) In a final variant, the weatherproof cover includes first and second seals. The seals fit closely about first and second portions of the attachment bail where the portions enter the body.

An appreciation of the other aims and objectives of the present invention and an understanding of it may be achieved by referring to the accompanying drawings and the detailed description of a preferred embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of the invention including combination locks for securing the attachment bail and door;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the FIG. 1 embodiment illustrating the lockbox door and attachment bail in open positions, the attachment chain and key locks for controlling the combination locks;

FIG. 3 a perspective view of a second embodiment of the invention including a combination lock having four alpha and numeric tumbler wheels and a protective exterior cover for the body and attachment bail; and

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a third embodiment illustrating the lockbox door having three tumbler wheels, each having two characters per position;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a fourth embodiment illustrating a weatherproof cover in a closed position;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the fourth embodiment with the door and weatherproof cover open and illustrating a barrier separating the attachment bail from the compartment for storing a key;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a fifth embodiment with the door and weatherproof cover open and illustrating a complete isolating cover separating the attachment bail from the compartment for storing a key;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the sixth embodiment with the door open and illustrating a hinged attachment that permits the door to be supported by the lockbox when open; and

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the sixth embodiment with the door removed, illustrating the hinge and hinge pin construction.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

(1) FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate a lockbox with user-configured combination locks 10 that may be constructed from the following components. A body 14 is provided. The body 14 has a top surface 18, side surfaces 22, an attachment bail 26 and an interior cavity 30. The interior cavity 30 extends inwardly from an opening 34 in one of the side surfaces 22. The attachment bail 26 extends upwardly from the top surface 18 of the body 14 and is slidable from a first, open position 38 to a second, closed position 42. A first combination lock 46 is provided. The first combination lock 46 is located on the top surface 18 and secures the bail 26 in the second, closed position 42. A first key lock 50 is provided. The first key lock 50 is located within the interior cavity 30 and controls selection of a combination 54 for the first combination lock 46. A door 58 is provided. The door 58 is sized and shaped to be removably secured to the opening 34. A second combination lock 62 is provided. The second combination lock 62 is fitted to the door 58, controls access to the interior cavity 30 through the opening 34, and has at least two tumbler rings 66. The tumbler rings 66 have a plurality of user-selectable positions 70. Each of the positions 70 is identified with at least one character 74. A second key lock 78 is provided. The second key lock 78 is located within the interior cavity 30 and controls selection of a combination 82 for the second combination lock 62.

When the attachment bail 26 is locked through a building fixture (not shown) with the first combination lock 46, the combination 82 of the second combination lock 62 is set and secured with the second key lock 78, a building key 86 is inserted in the interior cavity 30 and the door 58 secured to the opening 34 with the second combination lock 62, access to a building (not shown) is permitted to only those who have been given the combination 82. Changes to the combination 82 and removal of the lockbox 10 are prevented.

(2) In a variant of the invention, each of the tumbler rings 66 has thirteen user-selectable positions 70.

(3) In another variant, at least one of the tumbler rings 66 has the user-selectable positions 70 identified with alpha characters 90.

(4) In still another variant, at least one of the tumbler rings 66 has user-selectable positions 70 identified with numeric characters 94.

(5) In yet another variant, as illustrated in FIG. 4, at least one of the tumbler rings 66 has user-selectable positions 70 identified with two alpha characters 90 affixed together.

(6) In a further variant, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the second combination lock 62 has three tumbler rings 66.

(7) In still a further variant, as illustrated in FIG. 3, the second combination lock 62 has four tumbler rings 66.

(8) In yet a further variant, the first combination lock 46 has three tumbler rings 66.

(9) In another variant of the invention, as illustrated in FIG. 2, the first combination lock 46 has four tumbler rings 66.

(10) In still another variant, as illustrated in FIG. 3, the lockbox 10 includes a resilient covering 98 for the body 14. The covering 98 is located over the side surfaces 22 of the body 14 to prevent damage to buildings.

(11) In yet another variant, the lockbox 10 includes a resilient sleeve 102 for the attachment bail 26. The sleeve 26 prevents damage to building fixtures.

(12) In a further variant, the first key lock 50 and the second key lock 78 are identically keyed.

(13) In still a further variant, as illustrated in FIG. 2, the lockbox 10 includes a chain 106. The chain 106 attaches the door 58 to the body 14.

(14) In yet a further variant, as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, a protruding ledge 110 is provided. The protruding ledge 110 extends outwardly from an edge 114 of the door 58 and is sized and shaped to fit pivotally into an edge 118 of the opening 34. A sliding latch 122 is provided. The sliding latch 122 is sized, shaped and located to removably engage the edge 118 of the opening 34. The latch 122 is slidable from a first, disengaged position 126 to a second engaged position 130 for securing the door 58 to the opening 34. The latch 122 is releasably locked in the engaged position 130 by the second combination lock 62.

(15) In still a further variant, the sliding latch 122 includes a non-slip surface 134.

(16) In another variant of the invention, the sliding latch 122 includes a protrusion 138 extending outwardly from the door 58.

(17) In still another variant, the second key lock 78 is located at an interior portion 142 of the door 58.

(18) In yet another variant, as illustrated in FIGS. 8 and 9, the door 58 includes a lower edge 146 that has a substantially cylindrical cross-section 150. First 154 and second 158 hinge pins are provided. The hinge pins 154, 158 extend at right angles from the lower edge 146. The opening 34 includes first 162 and second 166 receiving notches. The receiving notches 162, 166 are sized, shaped and located to removably accept the first 154 and second 158 hinge pins. When the door 58 is opened with the second combination lock 62, the door 58 is tilted and removed from the lockbox 10.

(19) In a further variant, the receiving notches 162, 166 are configured to support the door 58 in a substantially horizontal position 170 when open.

(20) In still a further variant, a spring-loaded pin 174 is provided. The pin 174 is located adjacent the opening 34 in one of the side surfaces 22 and beneath either a top edge 178 or a side edge 182 of the door 58. The pin 174 urges the door 58 to open.

(21) In yet a further variant, as illustrated in FIG. 6, a barrier plate 186 is provided. The barrier plate 186 separates the interior cavity 30 into a first compartment 190 for storing a key 86 and a second compartment 194 isolating a portion 198 of the attachment bail 26 that enters the interior cavity 30.

(22) In another variant of the invention, as illustrated in FIG. 7, the second compartment 194 completely encloses the portion 198 of the attachment bail 26 that enters the interior cavity 30.

(23) In still another variant, as illustrated in FIGS. 5-7, a weatherproof cover 202 is provided. The cover 202 has a hinged doorway 206 with fastening latch 210. The doorway 206 provides access to the door 58.

(24) In a final variant, as illustrated in FIG. 7, the weatherproof cover 202 includes first 210 and second 214 seals. The seals 210, 214 fit closely about first 218 and second 222 portions of the attachment bail 26 where the portions 218, 222 enter the body 14.

The secure lockbox 10 has been described with reference to particular embodiments. Other modifications and enhancements can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the claims that follow.